Northwestern University researchers say that some HIV-positive patients can safely interrupt anti-HIV drug therapy for an extended period of time and then resume treatment with little detrimental effect, AIDS Weekly reports. A study of 25 HIV-positive people who maintained viral suppression for at least six months while on antiretroviral therapy showed that an average treatment interruption of nine months resulted in no AIDS-related infections or illnesses. T-cell counts did drop and HIV viral loads increased during the treatment breaks. But when drug treatment was resumed in 11 of the patients, viral levels again became undetectable, and T-cell counts began climbing.
"We were surprised that so many patients were able to remain off their therapy for so long a period," said lead researcher Chad Achenbach. "Extended treatment interruption appears safe and, after further study, may be an important HIV treatment strategy for the reduction of long-term toxicity, medication burden, and expense."